Feel About Vietnamese Egg Vietnam

Nga Do
Most people like their eggs sunny side up placed neatly beside strips of well-done bacon. That used to sum me up before I moved to Vietnam. Now I like my eggs in my coffee.

I didn’t even know that egg coffee was a thing until I came to Vietnam. Initially, I assumed it was all an elaborate trick done by my friend who loves to take advantage of my gullibility from time to time, so I turned to Google, thinking I’d be able to laugh in his face for his failed attempt at making a fool out of me. It backfired. To be honest, I don’t even know why I thought the concept of egg coffee was so absurd, considering all the weird food I’ve seen and tried in Asia.

So yes, egg coffee is a thing, and not just in Vietnam but also in Scandinavia. In Norway and Sweden in particular, eggs are added to change the taste and look of the coffee. What happens is that the proteins in the egg bind with the bitter-tasting polyphenols in the coffee to form insoluble complexes that will precipitate, which will then be filtered out. Once that is done, the resulting coffee will look clearer and taste milder and smoother. Should’ve paid attention to your Organic Chemistry classes in high-school. For more information on the mechanism, you can click-through to here.

In contrast, Vietnamese egg coffee is neither mild nor smooth. Here’s a fun fact: Vietnam is actually the 2nd largest exporter of coffee in the world. Coffee is not just a drink here – it’s a way of life. Numerous coffee shops and stalls decorate almost every street corner and no matter the time of the day, you will find at least one contended soul sitting on a little child-sized seat on the pavement, sipping a tall glass of ca phe sua da which directly translates to iced coffee with milk.

The coffee bean was initially introduced to Vietnam by the French, but planting the colonial seedlings was all they did. Since then the Vietnamese have completely made it their own. Most of the coffee plantations of the country can be found in the hills of Da Lat, a city in Southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Not only does the cool microclimate of Da Lat create the perfect conditions for the coffee plant to thrive but it also gives the bean a unique taste.

What never ceases to amaze me about Vietnamese coffee culture is that unlike in the west, where coffee is had in the morning to wake up a slow brain, or later in the day with the purpose of wanting to continue being awake, coffee to the locals is not solely a morning thing. In fact, it appears that coffee shops here are actually mostly active in the evenings. To the Vietnamese, having a coffee is also a “sit down” experience to be shared with family, friends or coworkers, and the concept of taking it “to go” is not very common.

Ca phe sua da mentioned earlier is what you are most likely to come across everywhere. The brew is made using a traditional filter system called a “phin“. This phin filter is filled up half way with medium ground Vietnamese coffee, and then boiling water is simply added to the top. The two mix and slowly trickle down, drop by drop through the filter, and into a glass that is lined with condensed milk. To this, ice is added and the resulting coffee is not only light but sweet and rather thick too. An interesting note: This habit of using condensed milk came about during the French War as there was a shortage of fresh milk during this time. For more information on how to brew a cup of ca phe sua da, refer to this article: How to Brew The Perfect Cup of Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnamese egg coffee, “ca phe trung“, is only slightly different when it comes to the ingredients and preparation. The only addition to this cuppa is a whisked-up egg yolk.

My first try was at a café in Hanoi, of which I do not remember the name and even though initially there was a bit of an ick factor, I soon got over it and craved a second cup. The only way I can really describe it is that it tasted like a foamy tiramisu crème brulee.

It was later recommended to me casually that I should go check out Café Giang in 39 Nguyen Huu Huan street. The egg coffee here was a masterpiece – absolutely delicious, and only later did I find out that it was here in 1946 that the first egg coffee of Vietnam originated, created by the founder of the café, Nguyen Giang. He didn’t mean to make it a thing, but apparently one day instead of using milk which was scarce at the time, Mr. Giang had whisked in an egg yolk as a substitute and the rest is history.

The recipe however only got popular in the 80s with the advent of the blender, because prior to that, the drink was just too eggy in flavor. That sounds kinda gross. It is also worth mentioning that the egg coffee here is miles ahead of any others served, but this is because of a secret recipe used that is not told to anyone, no matter how much money you try to bribe them with.

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